Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Mouse and ESPN

I saw the famous quote again yesterday made by Walt Disney "I hope we never lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse". Reading it got me thinking about the business side of Disney again (I promise to move on to more fun stuff later). There have been many classic Disney films through the years. Disney theme parks are second to none. Disney has etched a huge thumbprint in the history of television. And Mickey Mouse, the Castle, and the Disney font are the lasting icons of the company.

But generally when I talk about corporate Disney, I get scowled at for mentioning the most profitable side of Disney has nothing to do with a mouse at all but cable television. Even though the various Disney Channels available on your local cable TV or satellite packages are extremely profitable through subscriptions and advertising revenue, the top of the heap and most profitable part of the Disney's media empire is Bristol, CT's own ESPN. The advertising revenue brought in by the sports network giant is staggering. Since ESPN acquired Monday Night Football, some games have brought in more viewers in terms of numbers than any program in the history of cable TV. And even if you are not a sports fan and don't give a lick about ESPN, if the station is even on your cable or satellite package of programming, you're giving Disney about $3.00 month out of your monthly payment. That's millions of subscribers times 3 monthly.

Disney is all about cross-promotion and cross-marketing of their franchises and brands and they have made inroads into tying ESPN with Disney as a whole. The sports complex in WDW was re-branded to the ESPN Sports Complex last year. Every spring Disney brings down their flagship Sports Center programming to an event called ESPN the Weekend in Disney World where park guests get to interact with the stable of ESPN personalities and the host of sports stars that come with them. Even the afternoon ESPN sports talk show Pardon The Interruption as a Mickey statue sitting as a prop in the background of the set.

So sports haters give thanks. Even in a down economy where park attendance has been down despite various discount programs to prop the turnstiles up, where Disney produced multi-million dollar movies have tanked big time, where sales of Disney DVD's have plummeted, ESPN continues to rake in the big profits for the company.

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